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What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Physical therapists work across the lifespan, from birth to old age, helping people conquer challenges to achieve their highest level of function.
Here at Yes! PT, we apply anatomical, biomechanical and neurophysiological knowledge to protect, correct and optimize the function of ligaments, fascia, muscles and joints. By analyzing your activities, we can devise strategies to improve performance, minimize injury, and speed healing if injury occurs.
A recent study commissioned by the APTA, (see button below) evaluated the cost-effectiveness and economic value of physical therapy intervention for:

     Osteoarthritis of the knee
     Carpal tunnel syndrome
     Low back pain
     Stress Urinary incontinence
     Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
     Vascular claudication
     Falls prevention
     Cancer rehabilitation

In each condition, the study found that physical therapy offered a significant cost benefit over traditional non-physical therapy methods when employed alone or combined with other treatment methods. Additionally, the report found that not only is physical therapy an excellent alternative to many other interventions that only provide short-term relief at best, but its benefits extend to increases in future quality of life and subsequent injury prevention.

Economic Value of Physical Therapy
According to Dr. Toby Cosgrove, formerly of the Cleveland Clinic [1], “American healthcare is in danger of being overwhelmed by data. Medical knowledge will soon double every 73 days. An estimated 800,000 papers are published yearly in 5,600 medical journals…”. To cope with the vast amount of information, health education tends to build specialties or “silos” which allow healthcare providers to concentrate on learning a smaller subset of systems and their interactions. While this specialization is a reasonable approach, it means that no practitioner is likely to have all the answers for every patient.  The information explosion also means that expertise is now more distributed than ever.
Although Physical Therapy began as an adjunct to physician care, researchers in the Physical Therapy profession have worked tirelessly for decades, to generate an independent body of evidence supporting specific physical therapy evaluation and treatment options for a range of patient problems. This evidence is incorporated into educational programs leading to the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
Specialization has also come to Physical Therapy.  There are currently at least ten recognized specialty areas, each requiring additional training beyond the basic DPT degree.
The Physical Therapy profession has come so far that, in many cases, the evidence shows that replacing physicians with physical therapists as the entry point to the healthcare system for musculoskeletal disorders, is not only safe, but also cost-effective. (Pendergast,J et al., 2011; McGill,T, 2013, Bornhöft, et al., 2019).

1. Toby Cosgrove, MD on the Explosion of Medical Evidence.
2. Pendergast, J et al. (2011). A Comparison of Health Care Use for Physician‐Referred and Self‐Referred Episodes of Outpatient Physical Therapy.  Health Services Research, 47(2): 633-654.
3. McGill, T. (2013). Effectiveness of physical therapists serving as primary care musculoskeletal providers as compared to family practice providers in a deployed combat location: a retrospective medical chart review.  Mil Med., Oct; 178(10):1115-20.
4. Bornhöft, L, et al., (2019). Health effects of direct triaging to physiotherapists in primary care for patients with musculoskeletal disorders; a pragmatic randomized controlled trial.  Ther. Adv. Musculoskelet. Dis. 11: 1-13.
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